The Real Pinoy Problem: Colonial Mentality Or Cultural Ignorance



There’s certainly been a lot of hullabaloo after President Rodrigo Duterte allegedly cursed American President Barrack Obama. As a matter of fact, there have been more than a few articles written about it as of late. There are those that say that President Rodrigo Duterte should learn some manners or at least some diplomatic tact and then there’s the crowd that says it’s about time that the Filipino people shed their “colonial mentality” and no longer be beholden to the United States. However, while both sides definitely have a point, I would instead like to ask: “Is ‘colonial mentality’ our real problem as a country or is it instead ‘cultural ignorance’?”

Okay, granted, I was raised by an American and spent most of my childhood watching foreign shows like Small WonderMr. Belvedere, Tansformers, G.I. Joe, Gummy Bears and what not so you can accuse me of “colonial mentality” all you want. Before I go on though, I’d like to tell you a little something I noticed from a local film I was forced to watch not long ago.

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It was It Takes a Man and a Woman starring John Loyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo. Now, if you’ve kept up with my works here in GRP, you can probably tell that I’m not really all that fond of watching mainstream Filipino films to start with. I only gave this film a chance out of a sense of loyalty for my friends and, if I actually enjoyed it, it was only because I was with my friends at the time.

Anyway, there was this particular scene where the lead actor and actress were speaking with a clerk or agent at an airport. The clerk or agent in question was a woman of color and was either of African or Caribbean descent and her most notable feature were her colorful dreadlocks. I have trouble remembering it all now but it seemed the lead couple wanted to discuss schedules with the clerk and it was apparent that the process was quite complicated and that the two would have to wait.

It was then that John Loyd Cruz said something along the lines of “Kasing-gulo ng schedule niyo iyong buhok mo.” (Your schedule is as messy as your hair.) Take note that he said those lines in Tagalog and it was implied that the clerk in question didn’t understand what he had just said. The audience around me, including my friends, burst into laughter at that.

I kept my mouth shut through the rest of the movie but I felt positively horrible about that scene. I thought that if that scene were real and I was there, I would’ve confronted John Loyd Cruz’s arrogant character and demanded that he apologize to the clerk whose culture he was largely ignorant of. I mean, how would he and perhaps the rest of the audience would have felt if a large foreign man stood up to the couple and belligerently told them to “piss off” and wait their turn?

Look ladies and gentlemen, over the years, I sincerely doubt that “colonial mentality” is our real problem but is, in fact, only a symptom of what really ails us as a nation: cultural ignorance. Okay, I’ll give you all the benefit of the doubt because, after all, most of what I know relates only to my observations and experience. If you’re looking for empirical evidence or solid figures then I recommend you not waste time by reading this article (or rant, if that’s what you’d prefer to call it) and read the works of other contributors here as they may be more reliable or more up your alley.

So let’s start with something more local, shall we?

Notice how we perceive people with provincial roots to be ignorant and primitive. I certainly know a good many people, some of them friends even, who see Negritos as simple-minded savages. They generally look down on said people despite the fact that I have also read about Negritos who have proven themselves to be efficient engineers and educators.

It’s like we have essentially carved into our minds that the Negritos and other indigenous peoples of the Philippines like the Igorots, Badjao and Lumads are simply savages and nothing more. If they are ever included in a TV program that isn’t a documentary, they are cast in the role of slapstick comic relief to be bullied and made fun of by the heroes. They are almost always only secondary to the protagonists and are used as a cheap source of laughs. It is a major rarity when they are cast in serious roles wherein they are equal to the protagonists who are often represented by halfie actors and actresses who look nothing like what an actual, garden-variety Filipino would look like.

As for colonial mentality…

What can I say? It is again a product of our cultural ignorance, our inability to be more sensitive to people who are not like us or do not share our beliefs and traditions.

Take for instance that the word “kano” is used all too often to denote people with light skin even though one can safely say that there are about as many kinds of Caucasian people as there are Asians. Many of us simply assume that a white person is an “American” even though they could just as easily be Australian, Canadian, French, German or Russian.

I don’t really know or understand why but Filipinos are all too often beholden to white people because, as I’ve come to discover over the years, once you get past the language and cultural barrier, there’s really no real difference between us at all.

Now it doesn’t matter if  you’re a Negrito in some school in Iram trying to do your homework before class starts or a German waiting for a train to take you to work to save up on gas money, aren’t we all on some deep level the same? I mean really? I know some of you find Phil Collins songs corny but the line “I know we’re different but, deep inside us, we’re not that different at all!” has always rung true in my heart. We are all citizens of humanity and it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what deities you believe in if any or which political candidate you support.

If the only people you accept are people who look, talk and think like you, then I can promise you that you’ll always be alone. However, if you’re willing to accept and love others, be they from the streets of Johannesburg, the jungles of Mindanao or the Ural Mountains and regardless whether they follow the teachings of Christ, the words of the Qu’ran or believe instead in their own morality, then I can truly say you’ve come a long way as a human being.

I hope this all made sense to you…

36 Replies to “The Real Pinoy Problem: Colonial Mentality Or Cultural Ignorance”

  1. Yes, it makes a lot of sense because we all respond to the same human needs,, clothing, shelter, health(in body, mind and emotions) happiness, friendship, knowledge, sex, etc. Our differences in color, culture, physique, religion, value systems, etc.,simply proves that nature loves variety. We are all equal when we start after stepping out of the womb, and we acquire our distinctness from one another from our own responses with our respective environment, both physical and psychological.

  2. I just recently discovered your blog. Thank you. It is refreshing to find a place here that is characterized by intelligent thought.

    I look forward to many a good debate with you and an opportunity for us both to share learning, and perhaps action, since while I love learning I find that learning becomes sterile when learning does not lead to action.

  3. Humans may well start as a blank slate but my experience suggest each of us starts with a unique genetic disposition, a temperament, then our environment lays upon that temperament a historic and cultural heritage.

    For many it takes a lifetime of living to dig into the common layers that lie below all of that baggage. Some never make it.

    So those who do have a constant task before them to help our friends to move along in that direction.

  4. Thank you grimwald.
    That is a well written opinion peace.
    I have noticed the exact same thing over my life.
    Even more so since i came back from abroad.
    I 4 one hundred percent agree that ” colonial mentality” is not our problem but our ignorance of other cultures is.
    Hell with the ammount of OFW’s abroad and foreigners that live and work here you would think we would be more understanding.

    This site needs more articles like this.

  5. It’s simple really. Filipinos base their perceptions of foreigners mainly from Hollywood and other pop culture among other things. Even I was guilty of this. Before I left the Philippines, I used to think all Americans were white and as good looking as Brad Pitt, boy that was quite the culture shock when I first set foot on US soil.

    One suggestion I propose to mitigate cultural insensitivity is to promote more foreign exchange programs. I feel like just because PH being the “English capital of Asia” is not enough for true intercultural acceptance. I look at the list of offerings right now for host families in the Philippines and just smh.If Philippines wants to shake off its dubious image, a good step would be to make it enticing for international students to come for more than just English lessons.

  6. We are not the same, but, different in various ways. Every human being is created unique. What is food to you, maybe poison to me !

    It is in the Aquino era; the advent of talk shows like: Kris TV; teleseryas; the Wowoowee Shows of “giling giling”; that made the Filipinos dumb and dumber.This was the propaganda plan of the Aquinos, to make us all dumb… We are both suffering from, colonial mentality and cultural ignorance. Most of us have not traveled far around the world; to learn the cultures of other people.

    We are beholden to white people; because , we were colonized by Spain and the Americans. It is more of a “colonization hangover”, than colonial mentality.

    It is now the Age of Information Technology. We can learn from the internet, the cultures and the histories of other countries. I learned from my travels; that people are people…they offer their uniqueness to our humanity. We can see the past accomplishments of various kinds of people. Not the propaganda that their colonizers, had placed into their minds.

    We are different in various ways, but the same in our humanity !

  7. Last year, countryman Grimwald wrote a GRP article explaining that it may take a lot of time for the Filipinos to change and achieve improvements on themselves unless they are able to overcome the following three dysfunctions that seems to be ingrained in the Filipino psyche:
    1. We are too lazy to think
    2. We are obsessed with shallow concepts
    3. We choose our egos over practicality

    In my observations, these are the products of our SERVILE ATTITUDE brought about by the conditioning that we had received from the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese who invaded us.

    That is why it is no wonder that today, the Chinese either from the mainland or those who inter-mixed with our race since the time of Rizal were also able to subdue us in all frontiers be it in the government, in businesses, in academics and through gifts culture and influence peddling.

    As if it these were not enough, our fellow Filipinos were finally hooked to become drunkards, chain smokers, gamblers, Punsoy believers, junk food (MSG laden fast foods) lovers and chemical ingesters by consuming all the chinoys products advertised by their malls and media businesses.

    Underground, the Filipinos were conditioned to become consumers of pirated and china faked products and presently being turned into zombie junkies due to the chinese triads drug trafficking.

    So my advise to our kababayans is to learn to Control Your Own Thinking by knowing what you want and be willing to pay the price by becoming the person that you want to become and not be controlled by what others want you to be.

    1. “Cogito Ergo Sum”…or “I think, therefore, I am”…What we think inside our minds, are manifested in our characters. If we think, stupid things, we produce stupid results, and live stupid lives. If we think , stinking thinking…we produce stinking results and have stinking lives…

      This is the reason, I am all against Shabu Drug use; or any kind of “recreational” drug use…these drugs are dangerous and can corrupt our normal thinking !

      1. The “Cogito Ergo Sum”, proposition was formulated by the French Mathematician and Philosopher: Rene Descartes. His book: “Meditation on First Philosophy” was published in 1642…it was called the: “Cartesian Doubt”, that shapes the discussion of knowledge and what we really know about it !

        You can order the books of Rene Descartes, on line, and study them !

  8. the 3-6 months cleansing of president duterte on drugs, corruptions, and terrorism, including communism, will be done finishing by the power of the people in a nationwide march to arrest all known yellow tards, communist factions, and terrorist terrorizing the Nation our beloved Motherland the Pearl of the Orient.

    let’s start with de lima.

  9. I was thinking, if president Duterte had spoken his tirades in a politically correct manner, would it have drawn this much attention? And of course, it attracted all kinds of attention, but his rants might have reached the remotest places and maybe the most unwary which I think could be of benefit if the substance of what says are filtered. He might want us to get rid of colonial mentality in a way that we must learn the concept of respect or reverence without the heirarchical mindset. He sets such an example,actually. And by treating each other as equals, we avoid judging people by who’s superior or inferior to who, we may better understand cultural differences and be able to pick out what’s useful/good from what’s not.

    1. Please understand my messages…Pres. Duterte cannot change us…we have ourselves to change for the better, especially our mindsets…remove that Yellowtard mindset- it is stinking thinking !

    2. The man (Duterte) has nothing to lose because he is old. So he takes all kinds of risks with his country. His people are the ones who have to live with the legacy of his deeds. Goodluck to all Filipinos.

  10. what happened in the Philippines is enough for the people to get mad. being angry and mad is the way to change. they’ll (yellowtards) never calm down the people till they see that change is done. the rally this sunday, sept 11, by TAMARAW might be a show of people power to cry.

    1. ABS-CBN is one of the Propaganda Machines of Aquino and his cahoots. It is a YellowTard TV network…it is biased, that spreads disinformation, for YellowTards political agendas…

  11. If it’s a choice between a difficult truth and a simple lie, Failipinos in the Failippines will take the lie every time. Even if it kills them.

  12. it’s about time to call on the people power to arrest this 60 congressman blocking a help for the needy pilipnos. it’s the Nation’s money not theirs.

  13. @ Grimwald, This was a good article up until the last sentence….’You’ve come a long way…’. My objection to that line is that you presume that ALL humans are like the stereo-typical arogant Filipino idiots that have ,most likely, never been outside there own neighborhoods nevermind the country.

    When you step outside the Failippines you will see that what you refer to as ‘…coming a long way…’is actually the normal way most people conduct themselves on the planet these days and it has been that way for quite sometime.You sound as if the MLK quote ‘…Judge a person by the content of their character…not the color of their skin…’ was uttered last week,yes?

    It is sad that maybe that is the case in the Failippines but to be honest, I have never seen a more backward thinking and fucked up society than what is going on in the Failippines,it is quite amazingly behind the times, by 35 years at least.

  14. Pinoys look to Americans as demi gods for they worship all they endorse, watch and imitate hollywood films, speaks perfect american language, wear expensive clothing even he/she has a meager income. Lambasts any country that opposes America including its own Country- the Philippines!! In Short- Pinoys are slave to the bones…

  15. It’s colonial mentality.

    I can still recall a story I read (eons ago) of an old Filipina who was asked what she would wish for when she died. She said excitedly: I want to see America. Ayaw niyo hong mag-ikot -ikot sa Pilipinas? Ayoko, gusto ko America.

    What do you make of those wanting to come to America to give birth? Consequently their babies when born will be classified as “anchor babies.” The name is derogatory but quite useful in the sense that, later on in their lives, since they are American by birth, they could be used as stepping stones for their direct relatives to become American citizens.

    And Filipinas ending up marrying Americans (old, white , black) just to become American citizens themselves, because they believe that their lives wold be better if they were Americans.

    And Pinoys at home excited about gifts from America, thinking that they are Made In USA but only to be frustrated when they read the label Made In the Philippines. Ayoko niyan. Gawa sa Pinas. Though, some really don’t care about labels. They care more about where they come from.

    1. And now Filipinos have a president (Duterte) who wants to secede from America and foster a new relationship with China. It’s like a woman marrying someone she doesn’t love because he offers her security, yet still love-struck with the one she really wants but can’t have. Ha! Filipino hypocrisy at its best.

      1. We do not secede from a country we are not a part of. We’re sovereign. And there is nothing wrong with fostering friendship with China. We ought to be friendly with all nations, not just the US.

        1. Being friendly with other nations–especially when those nations are challenging each other–makes everyone question your loyalty.

  16. Regarding the tendency of people to refer to all white people as “kano”, it is not totally true for all types of Filipinos. I notice this only from people over age 40 and/or people who come from parts of the country that are so far flung they barely get foreigners that do this.

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